Julie Gunlock

The media likes to use the word “epidemic” and “health crisis” to hype problems and draw an audience's attention. When we are talking about the so-called “childhood obesity epidemic,” a little sober analysis would benefit the discussion. It's true that since the 1980s, childhood obesity has risen significantly, but overall the Center for Disease Control finds American children to be generally healthy and the obesity rate hasn't grown in the last ten years.

While it's a positive development that the obesity rate has stabilized, it's still appropriate for health officials to consider why so many kids are battling the bulge at such a young age. The administration has made reducing the childhood obesity rate a priority. That's a fine goal. Unfortunately, they seem less interested in examining if their preferred solution to the “obesity epidemic” — regulating the food industry — can really be expected to have any positive impact.

In fact, their utter disinterest in the actually efficacy of their solutions suggests that it isn’t healthier kids, but bigger government they seek. Indeed, since President Obama took office, we've witnessed a massive expansion in government's regulation of the food industry, and greater government involvement in their very process of what Americans consume.

Last year, the food nannies were thrilled to see billions of dollars added to the federally-run (and woefully mismanaged) school lunch program. The administration also pushed through a provision in Obamacare requiring chain restaurants to add calorie information to their menus — a crippling extra burden on businesses in these tough economic times. More recently, the federal government has announced plans to regulate the very ingredients food manufacturers use in their products, such as salt. That means some Washington bureaucrat will soon be tinkering with the recipe of your favorite snack food. Better stock up now!

Each of these government programs drives up food costs, wastes taxpayer resources, and makes America a little less free. Even more shockingly, there is simply no research to support the belief that any of these efforts will actually lead to improved health.

Now the federal government is planning to limit how food manufacturers advertise their products to children—the theory being that commercials sway children to demand unhealthy food. Yet there has been no study of what impact advertisements actually have on children’s diet. Congress created the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) to fill that void and study if advertising impacts children’s weights.

Julie Gunlock

Julie Gunlock is director of the Culture of Alarmism project at the Independent Women’s Forum (www.iwf.org).